July 12, 2010
I always assumed it happened at a town meeting in Pennsylvania circa 1718. They were hammering out a new ordnance, regarding wooden dentures or witches or something, when a young statesman with that distinctly American spirit said, “If I may venture to put forth a proposal, it would be that we cease conversing in this ridiculous British accent? Let’s just talk like normal people talk.” The proposal was followed by silence. Then the slow clap. Then the first occurrence of a crowd chanting, “USA, USA! USA!” a full 58 years before Washington crossed the Delaware. And from then on, not a single person born on this side of the Atlantic would grow up to sound like this guy:
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a bit of an anglophile. I adore London. I can sit through hours of British television with its washed-out palette and easily attainable heroines. I shrug like a Slim-Jim-fed simpleton and humor any Brixton-born footy fan who informs me that “the rest of the world doesn’t call it soccer, mate, they call it football, you know, like you yanks call the one with the chubby blokes.” I’m charmed by the Brits in the same way I’m charmed by that 35-year-old-guy who still wears his letterman jacket out to bars and gives you tips on how to pick up the ladies. There’s some interesting historical perspective there, but these are the folks that find Benny Hill funny.
The only thing that truly annoys me about our friends across the pond is their occasionally ridiculous pronunciation of words. I’m not talking about
usage of words. I’m fine with crisps and lifts and biscuits and lorries and all that. It’s the zany sounds that get me. Any waver of the Union Jack will say that British English is the purest form of the language and that it contains nothing but correct pronunciation. But I submit this. Ever since the fore-mentioned monumental town meeting of nearly 300 years ago, they’ve had it out for us. And Sir Robert Walpole or some 18th-century statesman decided that they should spite us by making their version of the language even more ridiculous. He went to Parliament, all wigged up and drunk on Pimms, and proclaimed, “We shall show those uppity colonists. From henceforth, Glacier is pronounced Glassier, like…Classier. And urinal is pronounced Your-Eye-Nal, like…well, good heavens, I haven’t a clue. But what the heck, it’s bound to rankle the noblemen of New Jersey.”
Seriously. Glacier. Urinal.
If you’re friends with Peter O’Toole, ask him to say those words. Gasp in horror and do what any red-bloodied American should do. Remind him he starred in Supergirl.